There are two basic things you need if you are going to be superpowered: Mega strength and a giant brain. Two new university lab inventions - superfast robot hands and injectable brain tissue - could give you both.

At the Ishikawa Komuro Lab at Tokyo University, a group working on superfast robotic motion has invented robot hands that can do things like dribble balls with alarming accuracy, twirl pencils blurringly fast, and tie knots with a flick of the wrist. This video, which has been making the rounds of the interwebs for the past couple of days, will astound you. Pay attention to the way the researcher talks about the robot motions - I think it's interesting that inventing these motions forces us to come up with ways of explaining complicated things we do with our bodies that we don't normally think about. Like "dynamic holding," which is a way of thinking about what dribbling really is.

It seems to me these would make terrific prosthetics. We already have artificial arms that are activated by neural interfaces - imagine if these were hooked into your nervous system. Essentially you would have superpowers, even if they only work on pencils and ping pong balls.


Meanwhile, Clemson University bioengineering researcher Nina Zhang has invented a biogel that you inject into somebody's brain to regrow injured brain tissues. Essentially, it's brain-in-a-tube: Zhang and her colleagues squirted this substance into rat brains, and it transformed into fully-functioning bits of gray matter. Says Zhang:

These results that we are seeing in adult lab rats are the first of its kind and show a sustained functional recovery in the animal model of TBI (traumatic brain injury). It also represents one of very few in the traumatic brain injury field that attempts structural repair of the lesion cavity using a tissue-engineering approach.

What she's saying is that basically this is a fast way to do tissue engineering on brains. And it might be ready for use in humans within three years.

Here you can see an image of some of the brain tissues that regrew after Zhang squirted the biogel into a damaged rat brain. The red indicates blood vessels, and the green shows nerve cells. Sounds like a great fix for damaged brains, but what about undamaged ones? All I'm saying is that I'd like a little extra brain to add to my current one.

via Ishikawa Komuro Lab and Clemson University